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Spotlight on Sonoma

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LOCAL KNOWLEDGE

Juan Hernandez, executive director of La Luz, talks tacos and income disparity

Describe your perfect day in Sonoma?

I drive into town from Santa Rosa and the scenic Bennett Valley Road. No perfect day in Sonoma without Barking Dog Roasters. Then I head into La Luz Center and check in with the staff. Then head out to enjoy the lunch options in Sonoma. I usually meet with community partners to deepen the connections and relationships to better serve our community. On those days where we have evening community meetings happen, I get to enjoy connecting with the Springs residents and then head to the Springs and go to the La Bamba taco truck, where you can find tourist and locals alike.

Where is your favorite place to eat in Sonoma and why?

My favorite place to eat in Sonoma is Mary's Pizza Shack on Highway 12 for lunch. It is still affordable and the Mary's salad with grilled chicken is great.

Where do you take first-time visitors to Sonoma?

In typical Sonoma fashion, I take first-timers winetasting. I start out at Muscardini Winery, skip on over to the Hamel Winery. Then I end up at Robledo Winery. If the owner Reynaldo Robledo or son, Larry, are available, we head out with one of them to the square for dinner at the Grille. After that, we walk through the square to the Swiss Hotel to sip on the El Verano cocktail. By then the music usually starts to bump at Burgers and Vine, we dance for about 30 minutes and end up at Town Square for a night cap.

What do you know about Sonoma that others don't?

I spend most of my time in the Springs area of Sonoma Valley. What I know is that the Springs is quickly changing and becoming gentrified. Though many positive changes are happening, I am afraid gentrification may be a result of the changes and the Springs loses its unique identity.

If you could change one thing about Sonoma what would it be?

I'd change the income disparity between those who dine in our fine restaurants and stay in the top hotels, and those who work in them. I find it incredibly sad that the workers serving the wealthiest locals and tourists can barely afford to live in Sonoma. Parents don't make enough money to cover such high rents and have enough to feed and clothe their children. One little medical emergency or injury throws everything off.

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